Royal Roads Tourism

Victoria, BC


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A Day in the Life at the Fairmont Empress in Victoria,BC- by Daniella Corlazzoli

Fairmont, VictoriaThe luxurious Fairmont Empress Hotel has 477 rooms and is located in Victoria’s downtown inner harbor. It is situated right across the street from where the Seattle ferries dock and where all of Victoria’s main attractions are. The property is over 100 years old holding a lot of heritage and culture. Most of Victoria’s main attractions like whale watching, famous dining outlets, parks and beaches are located within walking distance of the hotel. The location of the Fairmont Empress provides convenience for the guests and opportunity to explore a lot of different luxuries.

Map

Currently I do not have a vehicle so I commute to work via transit. I live in the Royal Oak area and it takes me approximately 25 minutes from when I leave my house to when I walk through the Fairmont Empress staff doors. The location of my home gives me a lot of different options of times and makes it that much easier to get to work.

 

I love where I work! The colleagues who I work with are all so supportive and they are what make my job great. The environment at the front desk is fun, busy and full of excitement. We all work so well together and support each other everyday. All of the management team are very supportive and take the time to create this positive work environment. If I could describe in one word what my work environment is it would be “supportive” No matter what department you are in there is always someone who will help you. One thing that separates my current job from any other is the strong friendships that I have created at work. It is a great feeling to go into work and know you are not working with just another colleague but a friend who you trust, encourage and support.

DaniellaDaniella2As soon as I enter the staff entrance to the hotel I prepare myself for my shift. The first thing I do is enter the staff laundry and grab my “clean” uniform. 🙂  Once I am all suited up I punch in my ID code and walk to the front desk to start the day. No matter what day it is or what time my shift starts some of the routine things include getting my float ready, daily briefings by the manager on duty, cash out procedure and the front desk/concierge task list duties.

Every day is different at the front desk and this is one of my favorite parts about the hospitality industry. The colleagues who I work with are from all different parts of the world, which enables us to create a memorable and personable experience to our guests. Depending on the occupancy of the hotel I may pick up concierge shifts. This gives the front desk staff more time to concentrate on checking guests in and out. On a normal day there is around 3-4 front desk agents on and one full time concierge on. Going back and forth from concierge to front desk positions allows me to gain more of an understanding of what is going on in the city and to get to know the guests more. A typical day at the concierge desk includes booking guests a shuttle to the gardens via Cruise Victoria Shuttle , whale watching excursion for 3 hours on Five Star Whale watching tours , or a zip lining adventure for those guests who seek adventure. If a guest is wanting suggestions on dining outlets the most popular cuisine is Il Terrazzo, which is a famous Italian restaurant known for their family style service. Some of the fun things that make this job so much fun is that I can be apart of guests stay from when they check in to the hotel until they check out. You get the chance to understand your guests more when you check them in, book their activities, follow up with how their experience was and wishing them back to stay at the hotel. It is the guests who acknowledge your hard work is what makes me remember why I love this job. I am proud to be an ambassador of the famous Fairmont Empress.

Plane

On my days off I make an effort to be a tourist in my hometown, whether it be to go kayaking or for a bike ride down Dallas road. It is important to understand what is going on in Victoria so that you can deliver the right information to guests. Due to the location of the property we get a lot of individuals who are coming off cruise ships and want to walk around the hotel and ask questions about things to do. One of the great luxuries that you get to enjoy when you work for the Fairmont Empress is discounted rates on a lot of Victoria’s attractions and transportations. Heli jet has a great relationship with Fairmont employees giving us the opportunity to fly back and forth to Vancouver at a great rate. On my days off I try to take advantage of the great deals Heli jet has to offer!

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Properly Empressed

For nearly six months I had been doggedly pursuing Rob Anderson, Bachelor of Arts in International Hotel Management alumni, to let me interview him about his job. Rob is a very busy man and he takes his job seriously so getting face time with him is not so easy now that he’s a manager. When I told him that I would, in fact, be a guest with my sister in the hotel for the weekend he happily assured me we could meet on his job site for the long-awaited interview.
This is not a regular job site. This is not a reglular job. Rob is the Tea Room Manager at one of the most famous tea rooms in the world: The Fairmont Empress Tea Room. Though my sister Monica and I were born and raised in nearby Vancouver, both of us had somehow missed out on the exquisite experience of high tea service in this fabled room.

The historic Empress Tea Room

I had walked past the tea room on many occasions but never sat down and had the chance to really look at the details of the room. We had a perfect table beside the fireplace and I noticed on either side of there were these incredible brass dragons. Above us the ceiling made me swoon and long for a satin dress, a date in a tuxedo, and 1930’s dance standards. All I could think was, how have I missed all this?

The Empress Tea service has been a tradition since 1908 and you get the sense that the staff has a reverence for the tradition they lovingly keep alive.Our tea server was Sam. Sam wore a beautiful uniform with pride and gave us some juicy tidbits about various stars that had been in the room. Clearly, Sam relished rubbing shoulders with celebrities and it was charming to hear him talk about his long career there.

We started our tea service with the Empress brew, a selection of seasonal teas created exclusively for The Fairont Empress by the Metropolitan Tea Company. Rob had recently gone to Toronto for his first level of tea sommelier education and we sat rapt as he told us the process of certification. We were suitably ’empressed’ and held our breath as Sam delivered our three-tiered tray presentation of goodies. No one spoke. Rob kindly broke our glazed-over admiration by explaining the various levels. See his expert narrative here (video):

Three tiers of heaven!

My sister was soon regretting wearing a tight belt as we tucked into the first level, a cornucopia of the most delicious sandwiches which you delicately hold as though you are at Ascott and the Queen Mum herself is eyeing you for etiquette protocol. Throughout the imbibing of tea (done the proper way, with milk first, a cube of sugar, then tea) and nibbling of teeny, crustless sandiches, Rob showed off his natural storytelling abilities, interrupted only by ooh’s and aah’s when we tucked into to another tier of culinary divine-ness. No, that’s not really a word but it is now because that is the only way I can describe the scones with Empress heavy-cream and strawberry preserve. One thinks, as you eat this tiny, innocent-looking pastry, highly irrational thoughts such as: If I have no breakfast, lunch or dinner, I could justify eating all three tiers more often. As in every weekend.

The most rewarding part, however, was seeing my older sister, from southern California, soaking up the fire, the storied floorboards, the proper Royal China and eating like it was her last meal. Smoked salmon, mushroom pate, truffle oil, carrot, ginger, bergamot, ganache, succulent berries–all the flavours begin to coalesce and you feel a sleepy contentment that is set off perfectly by our second tea choice, the Fairmont Earl Grey, which Rob tells me is grown near bergamot plants so the bergamot infuses the tea leaves as wind gusts over the horizon. Sounds cinematic to be sure but just try it, your palate will know the truth of it.

Rob Anderson and Mags Doyle at Empress Afternoon Tea

We bid adieu to Rob and he gave us a gorgeous tin of Empress Tea to take with us as a keepsake. My sister and I promptly went upstairs and had a well-deserved nap. That night we sat in the Bengal Room listening to jazz, watching young people dressed to the nines dance the night away. It felt as though we had travelled back in time yet here we were, sisters catching up in the here and now. It was a weekend I’ll not forget and reminds me to be a guest once in a while. Afterall, it’s why I got into the business in the first place–I really do love it!

Mags with her Earl Grey